Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: 'Generous Justice' by Timothy Keller

"Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy." -- Psalm 83:3 (NKJV)

If you would like to come to a better understanding of what Christians should be doing for our neighbors, it's hard for me to imagine a better resource than Generous Justice.

Generous Justice is one of those helpful Christian books that starts with the Bible in advocating a position about what the Lord's followers should do. Rather than trying to "construct" an argument in favor of a pre-existing position, Pastor Keller seeks what the Bible tells us and strives to make that wonderful Word more accessible to those who haven't done much to apply It to social justice issues. But this is a faith-based book, as well as a Bible-based one, that's well furnished with descriptions about how fully receiving and appreciating God's grace as redeemed repentant believers opens hearts to serving those who need help with loving hands and arms.

The book begins by explaining the Old Testament concept of Earthly justice ("mishpat"), combining both punishment and care . . . as called for in providing what was due to a person. Next, "being just" or "being righteous" is considered in terms of "right relationships" through the word "tzadeqah," which is viewed as conducting all day-to-day relationships with fairness, generosity, and equity. If tzadeqah were universal, mishpat would not be needed to remedy failings in human relations. Job is upheld as an Old Testament example of both concepts.

The book points out the many examples in the Old Testament of the rich needing to be restrained from oppressing the poor as well as the ways that misbehavior can lead to poverty. Needy peoples' circumstances are often complicated. They often need education, encouragement, a helping hand, and some money. The part of the book that most convicted me to rethink how to be of help was a story about the difficulties met in helping a church's poor neighbor. Given funds to pay her bills, the neighbor decided to spend the money on fun for the family. Both the "helpers" and the "helped" had a lot to learn before the neighbor was truly helped.

The book's most compelling passages come in simply describing what Jesus did and how the disciples were directed to act, both from Jesus and from their own spirits.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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